Canadiens Watch: With Markov out, Montreal’s grit needs to get in gear

One of the Montreal Canadiens’ best qualities is about to be put to the test once again.

Though nothing is confirmed just yet, it appears the Habs will be playing without the services of Andrei Markov for an extended stretch after the star defenseman appeared to re-aggravate a knee injury that originally occurred last spring, knocking him out of the Canadiens’ deep playoff run early in Round 2.

It’s the third significant injury Markov has sustained in about a 13-month span.

There’s no way Montreal can replace what Markov brings in terms of skill and playmaking abilities, so it will be on every player in the lineup to bring just a little bit more than they already were to compensate for the loss. Again.

The good news for Canadiens fans is their team has become one of the hardest-working clubs in hockey over the past couple seasons. Not that long ago, Montreal was relying on players like Alex Kovalev, Sergei Kostitsyn and the old version of Andrei Kostitsyn to get nightly results.

That’s no longer the case, which is why documented instances of people banging their heads into walls have dropped dramatically. Every player in the Habs lineup now – and more specifically, every type of player – understands there’s no room for nights off. The skill guys like Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec are some of the most driven skaters on the team. Rookie P.K. Subban isn’t perfect, but he sure loves to compete. Carey Price’s MVP-type performance this year is mostly attributed to heightened focus. The third line of Jeff Halpern between Mathieu Darche and Benoit Pouliot has carried the club at times.

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Even with Markov in the lineup, Montreal will never overwhelm anybody with ferocious skill. The reason the Canadiens have been able to compete with good teams is because they consistently work hard enough to maximize their moderate talent level.

Now that Markov is sidelined again, a number of things must happen. First off, Price has continue to keep up his incredible play; the undisciplined penalties have to stop immediately and every member of the blueline has to embrace a little more responsibility.

But most of all, the Montreal model of hustling a bit harder than opponents must become emphasized even more.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.